Hello Fall! Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Hello Fall! Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox (via Green Acorns)

Days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping, leaves are putting on a colorful show, animals alter behaviors in preparation for what’s to come. There are so many changes happening in nature right now that it’s hard not to notice. Embrace the season, connect with nature and celebrate the approaching equinox with these resources and ideas…

Learn

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Ways to celebrate the autumnal equinox

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Hello Fall! Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox (via Green Acorns)

Happy fall!
Fondly,

Monique

 

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Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine’s Day

Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine's Day

OBSERVE

Look for hearts in nature: You might be surprised where you may see naturally occurring heart shapes – a patch of lichen, a rock, a hollow in a tree.  Keep a lookout for them whenever you are out.  You never know where nature hearts will reveal themselves.

PLAN

Creating a Bird-Feeding Haven | Green Acorns

Show your nature love by creating a wild-life friendly habitat.  These are great projects for your own yard or a local school/community garden:

MAKE

Leave some nature love notes: Linda shares a simple Valentine activity that encourages children to get out and notice nature.  They will be connecting with the nature around them as they create lovely heart land art.

Bring it inside: Make some nature hearts to hang around the house.

Pine cone fairies:  Spread the love with these adorable fairies.  There are nice examples and tutorials here and here.

Cupid’s arrows: These arrows could also be made with leaves instead of feathers and bits of bark for the tips.  Get creative with whatever natural materials are on hand.

Do

DIY heart bird feeder

February is National Bird-Feeding month.  Show your fondness for your feathered friends by making some hanging bird treats and learning more about common backyard birds.  This is a wonderful resource.

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins February 17th.  Consider participating in this citizen science activity and help researchers “learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them and the environment we share”.

I hope some of these nature Valentine’s ideas spark your interest and that you’ll enjoy trying some of them out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Fondly,
Monique

NOTICING NATURE : Nature prompts for January 2017

Noticing Nature - Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families: January 2017 via Green Acorns

It can be a challenge to get out and notice nature during the colder months.  Frigid temperatures may zap motivation to get outside.  A decrease in plant life and animal activity may make it seem like there’s not much exciting going on.  Even so, getting fresh air and a dose of “Vitamin N” is important for our health.  Once you accomplish the hardest part of getting out the door, engage your senses and practice your skills of observation for “Learning to value even the most commonplace activities – and finding the teachable moments in each of them – has the potential to make the ordinary quite extraordinary” (Daniel Siegal, MD: 10 Mindful Minutes)

I hope the following prompts provides some inspiration…

Winter Buds

In late summer deciduous trees produce buds that will open the following spring.  Winter is the perfect time to take a closer look at some.  You might be amazed at the variety.  With a little practice you will be able to identify a leafless tree in winter by just its buds.

See more of our winter tree study and a list of resources here.

Winter Tracks

Winter can be a fun time to notice animal tracks.  When there’s snow on the ground, you may notice tracks that you wouldn’t otherwise.  We would never know about the opossums visiting our yard if we hadn’t seen it’s curious tracks in the snow.

If you would like to identify who made the tracks, this article has some good tips.

Resources to Inspire

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Winter Birds

As a fun family activity, try making your own bird feeders.  Peanut butter pine cone feeders and bird seed cookies are good choices for young ones to make for feathered friends.  Another  wonderful option is decorating a tree outside with feeders and edible garland.  Check out Rebecca’s post about her family’s After-Christmas tree tradition for ideas.

If you do choose to feed local birds, make a commitment to feed them all winter.  Birds need the extra calories and nutrients during this time of year when finding food can be difficult and they may come to rely on the food source you offer.

Winter Dwellings

Did you know that there are animals living in the snow during the winter?  There are hidden habitats in what’s called the subnivean zone.  You may have walked right over some without realizing it.

Why not take a cue from these snow-dwelling animals and build  your own winter fort.  Perhaps an igloo or a quinzee.  If there’s no snow, maybe a lean-to covered with branches and dead leaves.  My kids like to create habitats in the snow for some of their toy animals too.  It’s a great winter activity that utilizes creativity and problem-solving skills.

Resources to Inspire

Download and print your copy of the January prompts here.   Pin it up where you can easily see it for when you and your children need a little extra nudge to get outside and notice nature.

Have a wonder-filled week!

Fondly,
Monique

What Makes a Bird a Bird? Activities for Exploring Nest Building

What Makes a Bird a Bird Activities for exploring nest building

My children are fascinated by birds!  They love observing them and learning to identify them and are SO excited when they spot one they’ve never seen before.  They are completely captivated.  We bring three pairs of binoculars on our outings and perpetually have our favorite birding books checked out from the library.  Why I don’t just buy them, I don’t know.  Probably because I’d have to clear off an entire bookshelf just to house them.  Anyway…

We’ve embarked on a comprehensive bird study.  My children know so much already but I’ve decided to start with the basics (because sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know).  We’ll be exploring all the characteristics of birds from beak shape to songs and calls to unique behaviors.  I’ll be sharing some of our explorations here and hope you’ll follow along.

cavity nest

With spring in full swing here in Maine (finally!), birds have been busy collecting nesting material.  They’ve been spotted flying overhead with twigs and bits of fuzzy stuff.  It seems fitting then that we start our study by exploring birds’ nests and nest construction.  As an opener we read What Makes a Bird a Bird? by May Garelick which leads the reader through the various characteristics of birds until that one special feature that truly makes a bird a bird is discovered.  We then read some books just about birds’ nests.  Here are some that I recommend:

My children decided to help out the birds in our yard by providing some extra nesting materials.  They collected yarn, shredded paper, lint, cotton balls, and some clumps of fur found in our yard.  They left it all in a shallow dish in a spot that they have observed birds near on a regular basis.

They then set off  to build nests of their own.  The idea is to gather materials from nature that a bird might use and construct a nest, to the best of one’s capabilities, that will stay together.  A popular method with my children was using mud to make everything stick together.  They’ve held up quite well too!  They are hoping that some birds will move in.  Through this activity the kids learned not only that cup-shaped nests seem to be one of the easiest nest types to build but that birds are amazing architects.  Their intricate weaving techniques seem a near impossible achievement.

bird nest constructions

We then played a game that I came across on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Sleuth website.  You can find it by clicking their “kits and free resources” tab and downloading the free activities.   Scroll to the “Nests & Chicks” section and look for the “Baby Bird Run” game.  Follow the directions for the simple game in which children identify statements about birds and their nesting behaviors as being either true or false.

I also created a matching game to help my children think about how different nests are tailored for different habitats.  If you would like to download your own copy, just click on the image below.  Read the statements about nests and fill that statement’s number in the box next to the matching nest.  There are more types than listed on the sheet but I wanted to keep it fairly simple.

what type of bird nest is it?

These activities should prove to be effective ways to introduce children to birds’ nests and their construction.  I hope you enjoy!

Note:  My children range in age from five to eleven and these activities were appropriate for them all.  With my older children I spent some time talking about the different types of nests in more detail and asked them to identify what birds might build what type of nests.  If you give any of these activities a try with your children, let me know how it went.